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Salary and Career Information for a Helicopter Pilot

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a helicopter pilot. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training, certification and job duties to find out if this is the career for you.

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Helicopter pilots work in many industries to provide the safe operation of helicopters. The job growth outlook for this profession is faster than the market as a whole. Their median annual salary is about $76,000.

Essential Information

Helicopter pilots are responsible for operating rotorcraft in many different settings. These pilots are employed by the military, hospitals, law enforcement and commercial aviation companies. A helicopter pilot may have training from a variety of sources, and must normally possess FAA commercial certification for rotorcraft.

Required Education FAA commercial pilot certification with rotorcraft designation
Other Requirements Optional FAA instructor certification
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 10% for all commercial pilots
Median Salary (2015)* $76,150 for all commercial pilots

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics

Salary Information and Job Outlook for a Helicopter Pilot

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for all commercial pilots, including helicopter pilots, was $76,150 as of May 2015. The BLS projects that the number of jobs for commercial pilots will grow about 10% from 2014 to 2024 (www.bls.gov).

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Career Information for a Helicopter Pilot

Industries employing helicopter pilots include the armed forces, law enforcement and emergency medical services. Helicopter pilots also find employment in commercial aviation and transportation.

Job Duties

A helicopter pilot's responsibilities begin with a pre-flight safety check to ensure that all parts of the aircraft are working properly. During the flight, the pilot must keep the aircraft moving smoothly along the correct flight path through the use of aircraft controls and communication systems while staying aware of possible obstacles, such as power lines and bridges. Pilots may also have some customer service responsibilities, depending on their employers.

Education and Certification Information

All professional helicopter pilots are required by the FAA to earn commercial pilot certification with rotorcraft designation. This certification requires a minimum of 150 flight hours. However, according to the Professional Helicopter Pilots Association (PHPA), most entry-level job openings require that pilots have completed 500-1000 flight hours (www.autorotate.com).

Given this, pilots may opt to pursue Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) credentials from the FAA and seek jobs as instructors at flight schools, says the PHPA; this allows them to gain more flight experience while earning money, rather than paying to use instructional aircraft. To be certified as flight instructors, applicants must hold a commercial pilot license, pass additional written examinations and demonstrate familiarity with the instruments of the aircraft they will be using as instructors.

Helicopter pilots can work in many industries, including emergency medical services, military, law enforcement, and commercial operations. They must earn certification as a commercial pilot with rotocraft designation from the FAA, and they may also pursue additional certification to become an instructor at flight schools. Jobs for commercial pilots of all types are expected to grow by 10% from 2014 to 2024, and the median salary for commercial pilots in 2015 was about $76,000.

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